Water Into Fuel - Beat the Gas Companies at Their Own Game

By Austin Warty

Rather than allowing the gas companies to make you suffer, why not take matters into your own hands by turning water into fuel? Imagine doubling your gas mileage and slashing your gas costs in half. This is something that thousands of people are making a reality by building their own water into fuel kit.

This solution is not just for mechanics and car enthusiasts. Anyone that can follow a set of instructions can build their own water fuel system. After visiting your local hardware store to purchase the materials you need, you can have your water for gas kit ready to install. Hooking up your water fuel system from there takes moments, as it simply requires making a few connections to your car battery and the manifold under your hood.

This is nothing complex. If you know how to screw in a light bulb, you are capable of turning water into fuel in order to double your gas mileage. There are no permanent changes to your car, and uninstalling it is a snap.

But if this actually works, why haven't you heard about it in the past?


Actually, this technology has been around since World War II, but most people really haven't been affected by gas prices this bad since the 1973 oil crisis. Now everyone's clamoring to find alternatives to increase fuel efficiency and reduce their gas consumption. Secondly, in the past you would have to spend thousands of dollars to purchase a hydrogen generator to get these results. Modern technology now allows the do-it-yourself person to achieve the same effect with under $100 of supplies.

Now you can literally make a trip to the hardware store, follow your blueprint to build your water fuel system, and have your kit installed in a matter of a couple hours. That means in just a few hours from now your car can be running off the gas that is produced from water.

Not only will you save money by drastically reducing the amount of fuel your car burns, but there are many additional benefits for using a water fuel system. For one, the combustible HHO gas that is produced can boost engine performance while reducing fuel emissions. Your car can run smoother and quieter while nearly eliminating greenhouse gases that your automobile emits. In fact, you may be eligible to receive a $2,500 tax rebate for your conscious effort to use an alternative fuels.

That's just the beginning. Find out all the benefits and how to turn water into fuel. Imaging that just a few hours from now your car can be getting twice the gas mileage. Find out how by visiting http://www.water-engine.factfriend.info

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Austin_Warty

Warranties on Hybrid Cars

By Thomas Jones

Warranties are perpetually a blessing and a pain when it comes to any major appliance, and cars these days are no different. Thankfully, with these new hybrid cars running around, the warranties on hybrids are typically better than gas-powered vehicles, and one reason is that you are paying so much more for them upfront, as well as the fact that manufacturers have enough faith in the actual value of hybrid cars, especially in the long run. To be blunt, the manufacturers don't honestly think that the car is going to need repairs during the warranty period, because the parts are meant to last. That doesn't always happen, though, and it's important to look at what exactly you're in for.

1. What's Actually Covered - Okay, so, let's figure out what's actually covered in your warranty. For most standard warranties on hybrids, the actual battery pack, as well as the hybrid's parts are under warranty for 100,000 miles or 8 years, and if you're lucky, as far as 150,000 miles or 10 years. That depends on the state where you buy the car and live in, but either way, this at least covers when parts go bad for no apparent reason, or something happens to fail in a bizarre way. Even manufacturer defects are covered. Many other hybrids also have an additional warranty which is standard, giving you much of the same warranty coverage like a conventional vehicle, which is about 3 years.


If you're lucky, you might have the power train warranty, which takes care of items like the engine, seat belts, airbags, and even the front-wheel and rear-wheel drives, and tends to last around 5 years. The major thing to look out for is that most warranties assume you'll at least travel 12,000 miles, and that is per year. If you don't actually take advantage of that, you'll lose money and will be wasting the money you spent on your warranty.

2. The Really Fine Print - Okay, so, here's the tricky and sucky part. Not everything is covered on your warranty, and so you need to be sure you actually take good car of a hybrid vehicle. Otherwise, when you suddenly forget to find a mechanic in the area, then that snowballed into forgetting to chance the oil for an entire year, well, you're probably out of luck.

3. Should I Keep Going - The last question is to figure out if you even really think it'll be worth picking up a hybrid and then getting the warranty in the first place. Thankfully, when you buy a hybrid, the extended warranty is a blessing, especially if that battery pack you're expecting to last forever happens to fail right at the 100,001 mark. The hard part is that the extended warranty may cover your battery problem, but look out at how expensive it could be up front. The dealer, the type of warranty, and even information about yourself may be incredibly important in trying to figure out which warranty to get.

Thankfully, many of the extended warranties are actually worth the money. Just make sure not to go with dealer-specific warranties, non-transferable warranties, non-refundable warranties and any program that says you need to pay them right upfront. Also, be sure that if you buy a warranty, it'll allow you to go to a licensed mechanic in your area, as the last thing you want is to find out that you don't have anywhere to repair it from.

A word to the wise, though: While a warranty is a great safety net, there is a lot of fine print on what doesn't get covered by the warranty so make sure to read it all.

taken from ezinearticles

Problems With Hybrid Cars

By Thomas Jones

To buy or not to buy -- that is the question on many peoples mind these days when it comes to purchasing a new car. With gas prices being as astronomically high as they are, a great many people are looking at hybrid cars to solve the "grump at the pump syndrome." Hybrid vehicles may be money-saving for drivers and a grand "pollution-solution;" however, there are things you may not know that might influence your choice. The following represents examples you should seriously consider as some of the "bad news" about hybrid cars:

1. Hybrid cars incorporate new technology. When technology is new and minimally tested, there always exists the "reboot" scenario. As an example, until all the glitches are resolved, a hybrid car "vehicular reboot" in the middle of rush hour traffic could be a nightmare. Another hard-to-imagine example is being alone and losing power late at night;


2. Hybrids are lightweight. Hybrid cars have to accommodate large battery packs making the lighter materials necessary. There may never be "just a fender-bender" in a hybrid car. You should consider that what was once just a minor collision in an ordinary car may be much worse in a hybrid car;

3. Hybrid vehicles are small. If you have a long Christmas list and wait until the last minute, don't try to take the kids with you in a hybrid car to the mall. Hybrid cars, at the present time, have very limited cargo and seating space;

4. Hybrids are too quiet. Taking a silently golden ride down a country road in your hybrid car sounds lovely. BUT - hybrid cars run so silently that a child getting ready to dash across that county road may not hear you coming. While driving any vehicle demands great attention, it is even more important in the quiet hybrid car for the safety of all pedestrians and surrounding traffic; and,

5. Hybrid cars are slow on the "take off." Forget about gunning the engine to beat a train in a hybrid car. Entering onto a freeway or merging may not be as easy with a hybrid car. This issue alone has had many drivers wondering about safety problems.

The above examples were, or could have been, said about conventional automobiles at one time. Skepticism about anything new is common. However, skepticism is important to any decision regarding all large investments. It was probably more daunting to decide to buy an automobile in 1920 than deciding on buying a hybrid car today.

You probably have heard all the catch phrases touting the hybrid car. The "good news" is that hybrid cars are very fuel-efficient, truly environmentally-friendly, and, technologically cutting-edge-not to mention really cool. Before you write the check, though, take your time; do more research; talk to hybrid car owners; take a hide-and-watch stance. When, and if, you decide to buy, know your decision is based on information you have gathered. You wouldn't want buyers' remorse over a hybrid vehicle.

taken from ezinearticles

BMW Hybrid Car - Hybrid Technology and Luxury Collide

By Joseph Then

With the rising popularity of hybrid cars these days, many different car manufacturers want to get in on the deal. There is a high demand for vehicles that are environmentally friendly and fuel efficient, which is why manufacturers like BMW want to start producing and selling hybrids as well. Now BMW is going to be providing a BMW hybrid car for those who want the hybrid technology with the customary luxury of a BMW. BMW has always been a great car manufacturer with many great innovations in the past few years, and you can be sure that the new BMW hybrid car is going to live up to the standards of BMW.


A Different Technology

When it comes to the BMW hybrid car, this company is looking at a technology that is a bit different than what most other car manufacturers are using for their hybrid vehicles. They are using a new cutting edge technology and their hybrid vehicle actually runs on gas and Hydrogen, instead of gas and electric. While this is quite a controversial path when it comes to hybrid vehicles, BMW feels that it has solved the previous problems with vehicles that can run on hydrogen.

Hydrogen is Their Goal

The end goal that BMW has in mind is to come with a car that actually runs totally on hydrogen, instead of just having a BMW hybrid car. Of course it is probably going to take the company another 20 years or so to produce a car that can totally run on hydrogen, but BMW is quite optimistic that they can eventually reach this goal. They have spent the last few years working on hydrogen technology, since they feel that hydrogen is definitely a great solution for environmental problems due to regular gasoline engines.

Great Features Still Offered

Of course when it comes to the BMW hybrid car, you are still going to find all the great features that you expect in a car made by BMW. You won’t have to worry about driving along in a car that is cramped and small with an engine that barely has any power. With a BMW, you can be assured that you will still get power, style, elegance, and of course sophistication when you purchased a BMW hybrid car.

Gas Savings and a Cleaner Environment

So, not only are you going to get the luxury and class you expect from BMW, but with the BMW hybrid car you’ll be able to help save the environment. Of course you will also be able to enjoy huge savings on gas as well, since the new hybrids are designed for better gas mileage and of course they use less gas as well. With a BMW hybrid car, technology and luxury truly do combine for an excellent vehicle that is environmentally friendly and stylish as well.

Learn more about Hybrid Cars. Compare the various hybrid cars and understand their benefits. Know what to take note when buying such car. Visit Joseph's website on Hybrid Cars for more useful information.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Joseph_Then

Top 10 Tips for Buying a Fuel-Efficient Car

For many years, new car buyers considered cupholders more important than fuel economy. Forking over $4 for every gallon of gas has shifted those priorities. The auto industry has responded by offering a growing number of fuel-efficient models—not just hybrids. Auto engineers are getting more and more sophisticated; that said, buying a fuel-efficient car doesn’t have to be rocket science—if you follow these common-sense shopping tips.

1. Analyze Your Needs
Before you get your mind set on any particular make or model, it’s important to take a step back and consider why you drive. Are you looking for a car primarily to commute to and from work? Or is it a second car for quick errands around town? How many passengers do you usually carry? Shopping for a car that meets—but does not exceed—those real needs is an essential first step toward fuel efficiency.


2. Choose a Right-Sized Vehicle
After an honest self-assessment of how you’ll use your car or truck, it’s time to think about the vehicle size (commonly referred to as “segment”): SUV, Minivan, Pickup Truck, Crossover/Wagon, Midsize Sedan, Compact, or Subcompact. Why is choosing a segment important? Because when it comes to fuel efficiency, size matters. Bigger vehicles weigh more than smaller ones—and vehicle weight is the single biggest determinant for fuel efficiency. A heavier vehicle needs more power, and thus uses more fuel to accelerate. You’ll be way ahead of the fuel economy game if you “right-size” your vehicle.

3. Choose a Right-Sized Engine
You might imagine yourself as Jeff Gordon or Danica Patrick on your morning commute, but the amount of horsepower required for your daily needs is well below racetrack standards. In almost all cases, a smaller engine will result in greater fuel economy. Giving up a few horsepower can mean serious gains in fuel efficiency. The key stats are the number of cylinders and the amount of engine displacement. For maximum fuel efficiency, select a four-cylinder vehicle over a six-cylinder, or six cylinders rather than eight. With engine displacement, as with golf, low scores win.

4. Research the MPG of Specific Models
With a short list of a few models in hand, you can boil down your research to one statistic: the window-sticker MPG rating supplied by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Be aware that EPA numbers are likely to be higher than your real-world mileage. Nonetheless, those numbers are very useful as points of comparison. As you walk through the showroom, take note of the MPG ratings of the various vehicles on your shopping list.

5. Consider a Hybrid
When gas-electric hybrids were first introduced to the American market, they were viewed as science projects. No longer. In 2007, more than 350,000 shoppers bought a Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid, Ford Escape Hybrid or one of about a dozen available hybrids. The growing popularity of hybrids is directly related to the technology’s ability to save fuel. In any segment—from compacts to SUVs—hybrids are at the top of the list for fuel efficiency. You’re likely to pay a little bit more for the hybrid system; however, many consumer information organizations, including Consumer Reports, report payback periods on the premium of less than five years for the most efficient hybrids.

6. Consider Diesel
Diesel vehicles operate more efficiently than their gasoline counterparts, because they use higher compression ratios and higher combustion temperatures. The efficiency advantage is enhanced by the fact that a gallon of diesel fuel contains about 10 percent more energy than a gallon of gasoline. These two factors help modern direct-injection diesels achieve roughly 50 percent higher fuel economy than gasoline engines. That’s a big reason why diesel vehicles now account for nearly half of all new vehicle sales in Europe. Diesel still carries a black smoke stigma for many American car buyers, but that’s changing. For now, there are only a handful of diesels, some of which are not available in all 50 states because several states set very strict emissions levels that automakers have not yet achieved in mass production vehicles. But expect greater choice in diesel engine vehicles in the next few years.

7. Avoid Gas-Guzzling Vehicle Options
After you select a vehicle segment, and a specific make and model, you’re still not done. If you have a choice between two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive versions, opt for the two-wheel drive. When is the last time you drove a stick shift? Going with manual transmission will often yield more fuel economy. And remember that anything adding weight to the base vehicle will result in lower fuel efficiency. Rooftop luggage racks, kayak holders, and ski racks add weight and reduce aerodynamics.

8. New Beats Used
As your car ages, so can its ability to squeeze more miles out of a gallon of gasoline. If your budget allows, purchase new rather than used. Newer cars are more likely to use advanced technologies, such as camless systems, low-friction lubricants, idle-stop, and cylinder deactivation, which shuts down cylinders when not needed. Of course, late model used cars can also feature many of these technologies—and can be a great value. Older cars should not be dismissed out of hand. Purchasing used simply means that you need to be careful that the vehicle has been well maintained.

9. Plan Your Shift to Low-Resistance Tires
Don’t just kick the tires. Think about swapping them out with a low-resistance option. The tire offered by the manufacturer is a compromise designed for the widest range of customers. Fuel efficiency aficionados know that tires with lower rolling resistance have a big impact on mpg. See if the dealership will sweeten the deal by making the switch for you. Decreasing the resistance by 20 percent could raise mileage by as much as 5 percent. No matter what kind of tire you use, proper inflation is essential. For every three pounds below recommended pressure, fuel economy goes down by about 1 percent.

10. Maintain Your Investment with Good Driving Habits
The EPA window labels say “your mileage may vary” for a reason. The way you drive is every bit as important as what you drive. First of all, don’t speed. Driving 65 mph instead of 75 mph will increase your fuel economy by about 10 percent. In addition, avoid "jackrabbit" starts and anticipate stops. Flooring the gas pedal and speeding up to a red light is a waste of gas. After spending your hard-earned dollars on a fuel-efficient vehicle, you don’t want to see your investment get wasted through poor automotive behavior.

Taken from Hybridcars.com

'Two Mode' Hybrid: 5 Facts

By Bill Siuru

In 2004, General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, and BMW formed a joint program to develop a hybrid electric system that could be adapted for use in each company’s products. The result is the two-mode hybrid system that's based on the highly successful Allison parallel hybrid transmission used in large transit buses now operating in many U.S. cities. What they came up with is impressive by any measure. Here’s what you need to know.

Why Two Modes?
The two-mode hybrid system has two operating modes, one optimized for city driving and the other for highway travel. The two-mode provides propulsion with the electric motors and battery pack alone, with the engine only, or a combination of the two systems. It can start up and travel at speeds of up to 25 mph on silent electric power, at least for short distances. At higher speeds and heavier loads, it switches to the second mode, running on the internal combustion engine with the electric motors available if needed for added power to handle acceleration, climbing steep hills, or towing a trailer.


Already in Showrooms
General Motors offers its two mode system in the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade SUVs as well as the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. It will be available in the 2009 Saturn Vue SUV. Chrysler’s two-mode hybrid models include the Chrysler Aspen and Dodge SUVs. BMW has shown its Concept X6 ActiveHybrid based on the new X6 Sport Activity Coupe with the system. It could be in production in 2009 or 2010. Mercedes-Benz plans to use the two-mode system in the 2009 ML 450 Hybrid SUV. Others will be coming in the future including ones mated to diesel engines.

How it Works
The GM two mode hybrid system features a pair of 80 horsepower electric motors integrated into an electrically continuously variable transmission (ECVT). Electrical energy is stored in a nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) battery pack. In low speed mode, the ECVT functions with continuously variable gear ratios as power is supplied by the engine and electric motors. In the high speed mode, the transmission’s four clutches transition from variable ratio mode to one of four fixed gear ratios, like a regular automatic transmission. The other automakers’ versions work similarly, but with differences in the components used.

Engines are Important
Not all the fuel savings come from the two mode hybrid transmission. For GM and Chrysler, it also comes from shutting down half the engine’s cylinders when less power is needed. GM two mode hybrids use the 6.0L V-8 Gen IV engine with Active Fuel Management (AFM) that runs on only four cylinders at times, such as when cruising at highway speeds. Chrysler hybrids use a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 with a Multi-Displacement System (MDS) that similarly shuts down four of the engine’s eight cylinders under light load conditions.

Impressive Fuel Savings
General Motors claims that the hybrid Tahoe, Yukon, and Escalade get 25 percent better fuel economy on the combined EPA city/highway cycles compared to the smaller 5.3-liter V-8 that’s standard in the Tahoe and Yukon. All these two mode hybrids have a 6,000 lb towing capacity, eight passenger seating, and are available in both rear- and all-wheel drive versions. Chrysler is also claiming a 25 percent improvement in fuel economy over the non-hybrid 5.7-liter HEMI V-8.

Fun and fuel-efficient cars

By Sheryll Alexander

(AOL Autos) -- Gas is getting more expensive and yet you still want a fun drive, right? For some car buyers, a genuinely fast ride with excellent handling, braking, tech and entertainment makes for a big fun-to-drive factor.

In the past, these types of cars were commonly the more expensive sporty variety, which weren't usually the best on fuel efficiency. Fortunately, car manufacturers have taken note and provided car buyers of late with some great fun-to-drive vehicles that can truly save you big bucks on gas.

We rounded up eight fun and fuel efficient picks that got at least 30 mpg during our road tests. You no longer need to be bored while saving gas!

Mini Cooper S

Likes: Lightning fast acceleration, perfect transmission, excellent handling and braking, cool retro interior
Dislikes: Too small for large people, big dogs or growing families
MSRP: $21,200-$25,400
Fuel economy range: 36 mpg hwy, 29 mpg city


The idea for this fun-to-drive-yet-fuel-efficient story came to mind when a bright red Mini Cooper S with white stripes down the oh-so-cute bonnet showed up in my driveway. I really wasn't expecting to hail this Mini Cooper S as the "most fun car to drive ever." Ironically, I pulled a shoulder muscle pretty badly after four days of happily racing around town in this supercharged 1.6 liter, 16-valve inline, four-cylinder midget.

What's so hot about the Mini? The thing hauls ass and stops on a dime, to say it quite frankly. Despite its tiny body and boxy design, the Mini's tight suspension, light weight and superior balance let this tiny racer take curves with ease, respond quickly to your every move and go warp speeds down straightaways. For even more fun, the six-speed manual Geltrag transmission seems to propel the Mini along effortlessly with both parts race car and genteel British ride.

Think the Mini is only for college kids and chase scenes in action movies? Not so. I found the Mini's funky and fab retro interior to be both functional and more roomy than my expectations (and I'm pretty tall for a woman at 5 ft. 8 inches). Happily, the Mini's Harmon-Kardon sound system really bumped, especially when bobbing and weaving like the wind down Southern California's sunny freeways in this sexy convertible model.

Nissan Altima Hybrid

Likes: Sleek exterior, fast gas-electric engine, techy interior, power everything
Dislikes: Groans and gurgle noises from hybrid engine
MSRP: $25,070 - $30,500
Fuel economy range: 35 mpg hwy, 33 mpg city

The Nissan Altima has always been known as a fun car to drive, but what about fuel efficiency? Though Nissan's new hybrid model doesn't get 60 mpg like the Toyota Prius, people buying the Altima hybrid are getting 42 mpg highway, a striking exterior design and great performance.

The bright red 2007 Nissan Altima Hybrid model that I drove was certainly flashy with its curvy backside, sleek windows and overall modern look. The 2.5-liter, 16-valve, four-cylinder gas-electric engine practically drives itself with its smooth-shifting manual transmission as well as the latest handling systems, such as ABS brake, stability and traction control systems.

I was also quite pleased at how the Nissan Altima Hybrid engine doesn't moan and gurgle quite so much as Toyota's hybrid engines, especially the noisy Prius. The Nissan Altima Hybrid certainly does make some rather odd sounds, but overall the sound engineering is quite excellent.

Nissan engineering and design also shine in the Altima's super techy and racy interior. The blue-and-red neon lights inside the gauges make you feel like a race car driver and all of the buttons and power controls seems to be configured for deft ease of use. The Altima also has lots of controls built into the steering wheel as well as a host of luxury and tech-laden features with its connection package, which includes amenities such as leather seats, Bluetooth system, XM satellite radio and automatic headlamps.

Honda Civic Si

Likes: Trendy sleek design and sloping hood, sporty interior
Dislikes: Not enough guts going into third and fourth gears
MSRP: $21,310 to $23,060
Fuel economy range: 32 mpg hwy, 23 mpg city

I was surprised at the subtle exterior shape of the four-door Honda Civic Si. I mean, from one angle it looks like your typical family sedan, but then you glance again and the Honda Civic shows its true colors as a truly trendy ride. The glossy black model I road tested recently prompted lots of looks, mostly from college-aged guys, with this Civic's sexy sloping hood and overall modern look.

With all of the Honda Civic's good looks, there's also the fuel efficient 2.0-liter, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine, which garners 32 mpg highway and 23 mpg city, even while producing a strong 197 hp at a high-revving 7800 rpm. One of the gripes I had was how the transmission in the Honda Civic Si did not respond smoothly when shifting into third and fourth gears -- something that is surprising as Honda is known for smooth-shifting manual transmissions.

Inside, I enjoyed the Honda Civic's minimalist interior. The bubble-like information center in the dash just above the steering wheel is actually rather soothing and not at all distracting. The steering wheel has loads of built-in features and the overall interior design is pleasing and comfortable.

As always, I am not excited by Honda's navigation and entertainment system. While Honda's GPS system offers great functionality, I've used systems with better interface and graphics.

Toyota Prius

Likes: Zippy drive, good for commuter traffic, lots of top-notch technology
Dislikes: Over-the-top modern exterior design looks funky
MSRP: $20,950-$23,220
Fuel economy range: 51 mpg hwy. 60 mpg city

Toyota Prius, the No. 1-selling hybrid vehicle in the U.S. market, is certainly a fuel efficient car at an almost unbelievable 60 mpg city, but is it fun to drive? Absolutely.

Even with its engine's groans, squeaks and gurgling noises, the Prius still delivers exceptional acceleration and handling. The model I drove last spring had a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder, 16-valve hybrid synergy drive engine under its rather funny-looking hood.

Inside, the cabin of the Toyota Prius is cozy and roomy with a high-tech information system on the dash and what I consider the auto industry's best in-dash, push-button multimedia system. What could be more fun than a way-cool multimedia system, right?

Now that's saving money and giving you more time for the pursuit of personal happiness.

Mazda 3

Likes: Zoom-zoom drive, stylish interior, excellent gas mileage, affordable
Dislikes: Not much to dislike for the price
MSRP: $16,255
Fuel economy range: 32 mpg hwy, 24 mpg city

We recently chose Mazda3 as our top pick in a "Cheap New Cars" lineup. Starting at just $14,000, the Mazda3 has it all: a great drive, a stylish look, a small price tag -- and it gets a whopping 34 mpg hwy and 26 mpg city.

The silver 2008 Mazda3 i Sport 4-door we tested definitely had Mazda's trademark "zoom-zoom" drive with tight handling and suspension as well as above average acceleration and braking. And, this Mazda3 i Sport has just the right amount of straight lines and curves outside to make it stand out among the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.

Far from looking cheap, the all-black interior on the 2008 Mazda3 i Sport 4-door reminded us of more expensive Audi interiors with three-dimensional gauges, nice quality plastics and soft touch materials, and red backlit controls and buttons. Burnished chrome accents also gave the interior an upscale, classy, sporty feel. A nice surprise was the addition of audio and cruise control buttons built into the steering wheel which is something usually found on more expensive vehicles.

Chevy Cobalt

Likes: Sporty good looks, great gas mileage
Dislikes: Sponge-like feel to manual transmission
MSRP: $13,710-$18,910
Fuel economy range: 33 mpg hwy, 24 mpg city

GM claims it has more models that get at least 30 mpg than any other manufacturer (23 models in 2007). And with Chevy's 2008 Cobalt getting 33 mpg hwy, GM now sports a refined small car at a good price with excellent gas mileage.

Even better, Chevy's 2008 Cobalt has a broad range of models offering everything from a cheap bare-bones version to more sporty and accessories-laden choices. We got lots of looks from college-aged guys when we rolled up in our Cobalt with its rear spoiler and overall stylish exterior in an eye-popping copper orange metallic color.

The Cobalt's 2.2-liter, four-cylinder, 145 hp engine is lackluster for speed demons with its rather slow acceleration, although this inexpensive ride still makes for a good get-around-town car.

The interior is definitely where the 2008 Chevy Cobalt shines as the inside is certainly comfortable, looks upscale and was designed with ease of use in mind. The white-faced gauges give the looks a more racy edge, which contrasts well with GM's signature minimalist and eye-pleasing central console.

Ford Focus

Likes: SYNC info-tainment system links your digital phone and/or music player to the car using voice commands, sporty interior package
Dislikes: Rather soft manual transmission
MSRP: $14,075-$16,375
Fuel economy range: 35 mpg hwy, 24 mpg city

The 2008 Ford Focus is highly fuel efficient at 35 mpg hwy, is pretty fun to drive and has some of the best new in-car tech toys in its SYNC info-tainment system. Going beyond just providing a digital auxiliary jack, Ford's SYNC has taken in-car technology to the next level. We tried it out with my teenager's iPhone and, within just a few minutes, we had uploaded her entire digital music collection and had figured out how to "sync" her iPhone using Sync's simple voice commands to control the music and phone, including her address book and ring tones.

While I thought the 2008 Focus we tested had a rather soft transmission but not enough pick up from first to second gears, my husband said he loved the "cushy" ride. Overall, Ford's 2008 Focus is a fun-to-drive sedan with tight handling, exceptional suspension and highly responsive braking.

The 2008 model's exterior definitely took cues from Ford's Fusion to create a more sporty feel to the outside with a new all-chrome grille, more flared wheel arches and a sweeping line toward the more beefy behind.

Inside, our 2-door coupe SE model with the deluxe package truly delivered a sumptuous and sporty feel. We loved the matte chrome and black textures, the white-faced gauges with racy red accents and the techy information bubble at eye level on the dash. The saddle-stitched seats and steering wheel (with lots of built-in control buttons) all bumped up the 2008 Ford Focus to a level of sporty luxury.

Porsche Cayman

Likes: True sports car engine feel and sound engineering
Dislikes: Too-small cockpit interior and little storage space
MSRP: $43,400-$93,700
Fuel economy range: 32 mpg hwy, 23 mpg city

With its rather hefty price tag starting at $43,000, were weren't sure the Porsche Cayman would fit into our fuel efficient cars list. But at 32 mpg highway and 23 mpg city, this two-seater beauty truly gets good gas mileage as well as the joy of its pure sports car heritage.

Like Porsche's Boxster, upon which this coupe was designed, the Cayman's engine is inherently fuel efficient by design with its six-cylinder, 2.7 liter, 245 hp engine and lightweight body technology.

Yes, the Cayman gets good gas mileage, but do you really care? Just looking at its curvy haunches, sexy sloping hood and racing rear spoiler make you want to get in and take it on a long road trip. Although the interior is cramped and there's little storage space, the throaty growl and rapid acceleration of this sexy beast makes your heart thump every time you race at Autobahn-like speeds down highways and freeways.

Think you can't afford a Porsche? The Cayman is actually Porsche's least expensive coupe, starting at just $43,000 or so for a racy ride and standard all-leather black interior. And at 31 mpg highway, the Porsche Cayman rides along for hundreds of miles without stopping for fuel. E-mail to a friend

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Expert: Head-turning hybrid has good performance

By Terry Galanoy

(AOL Autos) -- Some car companies just can't leave well enough alone. After all, if you have the best-selling car eight of the past nine years, have projections to sell 420,000 more next year and your new model has won just about every automotive award available, except the Indy 500 Milk Bottle, why would you place the engineering equivalent of a graffiti mustache on it?

Toyota has three reasons for creating a new hybrid version of their wildly popular Camry. First, Toyota is out to retain and expand its reputation for leadership in hybrid technology that started with the "It Ain't Easy being Green" Prius.

Second, the Camry Hybrid sedan joins the new Highlander Hybrid as another model in a long-range plan to develop hybrids to fit all marketing segments.

The third is financial: through innovation, aggressive product development and offering the car shopper a wide choice, Toyota hopes to make more sales.

Completely redesigned to be more declarative and aggressive, the Camry Hybrid, which has an MSRP of $25,200, is described by Toyota as "athletic and elegant," and that it is. Today, despite the fact that thousands of hybrid Camrys are mingling with traffic on our streets and roads, the perception has not become seen-one-seen-em-all.


Although not quite a Maserati Quattroporte, the Toyota Camry can do its fair share of head turning. Its newly-designed semi-sinister (or smiling, depending on your outlook) grille features projector-headlights highlights with a low, ready-to-spring crouch. From there, a sleek, shark-swoop fender line streaks back along gracefully-curved flanks to a naturally-melding high trunk profile which seems to fit the overall design better than the BMW protruding butts. Our test car was a high-luxe metallic white with the sheen of a giant pearl.

Inside the vault-clunking doors, there is 101.4 cubic feet of passenger volume, seemingly room enough for the starting backfield of the Dallas Cowboys. The feeling of spaciousness is enhanced because the huge windshield and cleverly curved dashboard have been pushed considerably forward. The Camry rear legroom is now over 38 inches. Those rear seats now recline eight degrees and have personal reading lamps on the moonroof-equipped models. Add two jet engines and this vehicle could replace six major airlines.

The entire cockpit has a Lexus-Mercedes-Cadillac feel, enhanced by easy to understand and operate buttons and switches that make everything instantly manageable. Even the optional voice-operated navigation system will make a non-direction-asking husband fall in love. Instruments are large, readable and viewable in bright sunlight. Instead of the usual tachometer, there is a constant readout mpg gauge marked from 0 mpg to 60 and then into a range beyond the numbers when the Camry drives without engine power.

The Camry Hybrid we tested didn't miss a stop on the production line, came as well-equipped as any of its top-shelf Lexus relatives. In addition to the companionable voiced navigation system were seating surfaces covered in leather, a multi-position sun/moon roof, 12v plugs, cup holders, multiple storage bins, a display showing outside temperature, estimated range, average speed, average fuel use and trip odometer, a 440-watt JBL audio system, Bluetooth technology for hands-free cell phone calls, and a keyless push button start system for the engine which takes some getting used to.

In short, the Hybrid Camry has all the operational gee-whizzes and touchy-feely gleams and textures one usually associates with much more expensive cars.

But, as they say, beauty is only skin-deep, so after sating ourselves with surface appeals, we went hunting for our top-of-the-list musts: safety engineering, equipment and operation.

Here, the Camry Hybrid takes care of its own and, obviously, yours too.

Like the other Camrys, the Hybrid features dual-stage driver and passenger SRS airbags, seat-mounted side airbags and side curtain airbags, even a driver's knee airbag. Toyota uses their exclusive whiplash Injury Lessening Technology on the front seats. There is also a standard (ABS) anti-lock braking system, Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist which applies enough pressure to engage the ABS if the driver has not mashed the brake pedal hard enough in emergencies.

The Hybrid is also equipped with the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management System that helps control vehicle traction and stability through throttle control, brake application on individual wheels and even minor steering correction, if needed. Shortly, it would seem, we will all be safer if the vehicles start driving themselves and we can all relax in on our reclined back seats.

But as fetching as the Hybrid looks and as safe as it keeps its occupants, how does it scoot down the road? We set out to see and the going was, as they say, good. On a 78 degree day, on three runs, we got 0-60 mph two-way average times of 8.2, 7.9, and 8.0 seconds. Those 0-60 times compare very favorably to several models in its class.

The dual driving forces behind this surprisingly good performance are the two parts of the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive System which carries power between gas and electricity and/or both as needed

The first half of the combined 187 horsepower (same output as the 2006 Camry V-6 3.0 liter) unit is a 147 horsepower, 2.4 litre four cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine (a more efficient engine design) mated to a CVT or continuously variable transmission. The second half is a small, high torque 40-hp electric motor with a small inverter, compact battery and a transaxle, a component that combines the transmission, differential and the drive into one integrated assembly, handling power from both engines.

Because there are times when the gas engine shuts down completely to conserve fuel, Toyota engineers have designed the air conditioning and power steering systems to be driven electrically. There is also an ECO button which can control how much energy is being used by the climate control system.

Also helping the Camry Hybrid accomplish its mpg levels are racing-inspired design elements like wheel spats and underbelly pans which help yield outstandingly low draft coefficients. The slipperier a vehicle is in sliding through the air, the better draft coefficients it has. As examples, the older boxy Volvo 960 had a Cd of .36 while the newer, sleeker model S80 went down to 0.28. The Camry Hybrid has 0.27 Cd.

The EPA estimates 40mpg city/38mpg highway for this new Hybrid. Our experience, including the mini 0-60 mph drag meet, heavy-footed runs along the freeways, shopping mall stop-and-go with lots of air conditioning and general around town cruising, was a bit less with an overall average of 34 mpg. This was generous enough, seemed to us, for a full out, good performing, full sized luxury-type sedan.

If you are still undecided about a Hybrid car and want to wait and see where the industry is headed; whether that is more look-at-me models or me-too versions, Toyota is evidently planning to cover both bases. Word is that the factory fanciers of the Prius look will soon add additional models to the existing four door sedan, including an SUV. Over at the business-as-usual design shop, plans seem to be to just add hybrid technology to existing models and demand and future product planning dictate.

Either way you look at it, Toyota will be offering consumers with more choices and we think the Camry Hybrid is a great one.

Taken from © 2008 AOL, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

All About: Greener driving

By Rachel Oliver - For CNN

(CNN) -- A fact that may surprise people: the most recycled consumer product in the world is the car: 95 percent of all cars get recycled at the end of their lives, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

(Picture: Smoke billowing out of a car's tailpipe. Clean car advocates would like to see these gone for good.)

Even though cars don't get recycled in their entirety -- as some materials are easier to recycle than others -- according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), if you took an average car down to the local recycle yard, they could take 75 percent of it off your hands.

The reason cars are so environmentally unfriendly is basically due to the gasoline they burn. If you took the entire process that is involved in a car's average lifespan (from sourcing the materials, to manufacturing the car, to driving it, to eventually breaking it down for recycling) fuel would represent around 90 percent of that car's overall greenhouse gas emissions

America's oil addiction

Despite advances in the technologies surrounding cleaner cars, around 96 percent of American cars and trucks still rely on petroleum, needing 120 billion gallons of it every year, says ACEEE. Cars contribute greatly to the reason why the U.S. imports as much oil as it does -- around 20 million barrels every day (costing the country $1 billion daily) -- 40 percent of which goes straight into Americans' gas tanks.

America's oil-fueled cars play a disproportionately large role in the country's -- and the world's -- environmental ills, producing:

Nearly 50 percent of the world's auto-related greenhouse gas emissions
Nearly one quarter of all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions
Nearly two-thirds of U.S. carbon monoxide emissions
One-third of U.S. nitrogen oxide emissions
One quarter of hydrocarbons in the atmosphere
50 percent of all air pollution in the U.S.

The reason, environmentalists say, so much oil is set aside for cars is because they are not fuel- efficient enough. The fuel economy of American cars and trucks are now at a two-decade low -- the fuel economy of new cars and trucks back in 1987 was actually better than it was in 2004 (26 miles per gallon compared to 24.4 miles per gallon). Today it stands at around 25.3 mpg.


The last time strict fuel efficiency standards were imposed on U.S. auto manufacturers was in 1975 (it was also the first time) which called for 27.5 mpg within 10 years. That dropped to 26 mpg in 1986 following government lobbying by Ford and General Motors. The next time a new fuel standard would be set would be more than 20 years later -- at the end of 2007.

During that 20-year period, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has accused automakers of having "increasingly exploited loopholes in Congressional and regulatory language" and has accused the U.S. government of having "turned a blind eye to them or made them larger."

Auto manufacturers for example, have been allowed to reclassify minivans, sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and station wagons and certain cars as non-passenger vehicles, "thereby qualifying them to meet a lower fuel economy standard". And some vehicles have been exempted from fuel economy standards altogether.

Last year's U.S. Energy Bill stipulates that cars must improve fuel efficiency standards by 40 percent to reach a fuel efficiency standard of 35 mpg by 2020. UCS says that's not enough and wants fuel economy standards in the U.S. to reach 40 mpg by 2015 and 55 mpg by 2025. Doing that would "save three times more oil...than we could recover from the Arctic refuge" it says.

Automakers say incentive is needed

Auto manufacturers have tried to argue in the past that as long as petroleum remains cheap, consumers have no incentive to buy more fuel-efficient cars --which means they don't have the necessary incentives to build them.

That argument may not hold for much longer. At the beginning of 2008, the price of oil hit $100 a barrel for the first time and is now five times more expensive than it was at the start of 2002.

And that, The Economist pointed out in a recent leader, has been more down to politics than the lack of supply. Yes, there is a finite amount of oil for the world to drill -- but the real problem is where it is. Unless the likes of Exxon Mobil and Shell are given unfettered access to the likes of Iran or Venezuela's vast oil reserves any time soon, for instance, prices are going to stay where they are (or go higher still).

"The economic toll of expensive oil is just as high whether geology or politics is to blame," the Economist wrote. "And the best response is just the same. Policy should encourage energy efficiency and support research into alternative fuels."

All eyes on hybrid cars

In order to slash oil dependence, much attention of late has been given to the hybrid car.

Currently, hybrid gas-electric vehicles represent around 2 percent of the U.S. passenger car market, ENN reports. A recent study by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) suggested that with 20 percent market share, hybrids could slash greenhouse gas emissions by 180 million metric tons a year.

With 60 percent market share, it would be as much as 450 million metric tons -- the equivalent of taking 82 million cars off the road (a third of all cars on American roads). It would also save the country between 3 million to 4 million barrels of oil a day, "more than twice what the United States imports each day from Saudi Arabia," reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Hybrids still use gasoline which means less fuel economy than, say, electric cars, which don't need fuel at all, or plug-in hybrids which can draw energy from the electricity grid. Neither cars are widely available yet -- in the U.S. anyway. (Hint: if you want to see what energy-efficient cars really look like, visit Norway or Sweden).

With patience and money, hybrid owners can convert their existing hybrids into plug-in hybrids, to further minimize the fuel they are burning. According to UCS, using existing "off-the-shelf technologies" motorists can "affordably and safely boost fuel economy by nearly 75 percent."

However, "affordable" is a relative term. If you live in California, for example and want to convert your Prius into a plug-in hybrid, it could cost you between $10,000 and $12,000 to install the extra batteries according to CNET, which points out, "at that price and with gas at $3 a gallon, it would take around 160,000 to 200,000 miles of driving to break even."

Efforts are under way, however, to create DIY open-source style conversion kits which could sell for as less as $3,000. The California Cars Initiative (CalCars) is aiming to have a kit ready by this summer, according to CNET, although as it will be a volunteer-based effort, that deadline is not guaranteed by any stretch.

The need for fuel-free cars

The best kind of fuel efficiency is no fuel at all. But simply taking oil out of the gas tanks does not solve all environmental problems.

The Reason Foundation for example, recently released a report saying that hydrogen cars are no panacea for the transportation problem. If anything, widescale implementation of hydrogen cars -- along with the necessary infrastructure to support them -- could actually boost CO2 emissions.

The reason? A "significant" amount of energy is needed to produce and move around the hydrogen that is needed in the first place. Furthermore it increases reliance on foreign-produced natural gas, the report adds. And the parts of the world with this biggest gas reserves with the exception of Russia are all in the Middle East.

We are quite a way yet from solar-powered cars, which still have to get past the issues of speed and load capacity (the heavier the vehicle, the slower you go). So that leaves the electric vehicle (EV).

The first EV took to the streets in 1834, a creation of Vermont-native Thomas Davenport. In that same century, a gentleman named William Morrison built an EV that could travel non-stop for 13 hours (admittedly at 14 miles per hour). And by 1900, an EV could go 180 miles on one fully-charged battery.

At its peak, in 1912, the EV industry had 35,000 vehicles on the road in the U.S. alone. Nearly a century later, many argue that they are still our best bet.

Efforts by the likes of GM to introduce EVs into the market in the 1990s floundered -- car makers said it was because of a lack of customer demand. It is doubtful they could argue the same point today.

EVs don't need fuel to power them, which means no tailpipe emissions. But 'no fuel' doesn't mean 'no problem'. Your average EV owner needs to plug into a grid to charge up. And depending on what kind of fuel powers that grid ultimately decides how environmentally-friendly the car actually is. That has led the likes of Toyota recently to suggest EVs are not appropriate for the Chinese market -- because it's electricity grid is powered by coal.

But even if the grid is 100 percent coal-powered, EVWorld.com argues, the overall CO2 emission savings still mean all EVs are a better bet environmentally than anything else on the road.

On average, cars emit 22 pounds of C02 (as well as other pollutants) for every gallon of gasoline consumed. An EV's CO2 emissions will come from whatever fuel is powering the grid it's plugged into. Assuming the grid is 100 percent coal-powered, and say the journey is 25 miles (which your average tank of gasoline will take you), then an EV will consume around 5 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity at 200 watt hours per mile, to get there, using up around 5 pounds of coal.

On average (depending on the type of coal used) 1 kWh produces 1.4 pounds of CO2 which would mean a 25-mile journey using 5 kWh would emit around 7 pounds of CO2 compared to your average vehicles emitting 22 pounds of C02.

As more types of renewable energy sources become more mainstream, grid-related emissions will drop even further. Equally some electric vehicle owners have been able to recharge their cars with solar panels, which means their emissions are practically zero (although the emissions involved with actually constructing the solar panels and the cars will mean that no cars are ever totally clean).

Issues remain with electric cars

There are issues still to be resolved with EVs. Overpowering the grid has traditionally been one of them. The environmental impact and safety record of the batteries is another.

On the first point, electric drive proponents point out that as most car owners would plug in and charge their car overnight, while demand is low, the strain on the grid would be negligible. The EPRI/NRDC study appears to support this, suggesting that even if 60 percent of cars on America's roads were plug-ins, it would only lead to increases in electricity usage of between 7 percent and 8 percent.

As for the issue of batteries, that may take some time to solve. Despite GM's planned EV comeback in 2010 with the Volt, heralding the return of mass-market players to the EV scene, the Wall Street Journal reports it "still hasn't solved the battery problem".

The problem being, it says, "how to make a small enough battery that will hold a big enough charge for these new cars -- and not be a risk to burst into flames". Specifically it is referring to lithium-ion batteries, which U.S transport authorities have cracked down on (loose ones in checked luggage are no longer allowed on planes, such is the level of concern of them exploding) following reports of lithium-ion batteries used in laptops and mobile phones overheating and bursting into flames.

According to the Journal, Toyota was going to use lithium-ion batteries in its new Prius, but shelved the idea (until at least 2010 at least) due to safety problems. There are a couple of players on the market however, who say they have got round the problem, one of them being laptop maker Toshiba.

But perhaps an even more environmentally-friendly car than the EV is the Air Car, which is an Indian invention. The Air Car runs on nothing but compressed air and can be easily filled up at any gas station. All the car needs is 320 liters of air, which will cost Indian consumers around $2, according to Popular Mechanics.

If consumers don't want to even pay for that, they can plug their car into the local grid and an in-built air compressor will do the job in 4 hours. Air Car is due to launch in India this August and 12 countries including Germany, Israel and South Africa have placed orders with Air Car's manufacturer Luxemboug-based MDI.

Gas guzzlers get new lives -- as tire-smoking hybrids

By Sean Callebs - CNN

WICHITA, Kansas (CNN) -- On a beautiful, crisp late fall afternoon, rock icon Neil Young took his 1959 Lincoln Continental for one last spin before a team of mechanics ripped out its gas-guzzling engine to make way for an electric motor.

(Picture: Neil Young watches as mechanics remove the engine from his 1959 Lincoln Continental.

1 of 3 Car buffs may think it's sacrilege to tear apart an automotive classic, but Young wants it to have a new life as a fuel-efficient hybrid.

"If we're going to make a difference, truly make cars more environmentally friendly," Young said, "we have to make that emotional connection."

Young said everyone has a connection with an old car like the Lincoln.

It only took about an hour for Johnathan Goodwin and his four-man team to pry the engine out of Young's Lincoln. He'll have the new engine installed in 45 days.

Talking about the old motor, Goodwin says, "Of course, it's not fuel efficient at all. It's a big polluter, one of the biggest rawest forms."

The Lincoln's new electric engine will power the car and when it begins to lose juice, Young will simply flip a switch and the car will run on biodiesel fuel until the electric motor is recharged. "A 19-foot-long car, the longest car ever made at its time. Two and half tons, the heaviest car at its time," Young said, "And it can get 100 miles to the gallon, not 10 miles to the gallon."

Young renamed his car Linc-Volt, and is making a movie about the transformation, which he hopes to release next year.

Goodwin is making a name for himself -- and his company, H-Line Conversions -- by turning gas-guzzling behemoths like Hummers, Cadillac Escalades, Jeeps and other big American cars into clean-power machines.

The first thing he does is remove the old inefficient engine -- even if it's a brand new vehicle -- and replace it with a diesel engine that can run on biodiesel.

"It's the transformation of what I call old technology to new technology," Goodwin says.

Here's his analogy: Remember 15 or so years ago when a cellular phone was the size of a brick. Now it's a lot smaller, because the industry underwent a ton of changes over the years.

The same kinds of advances are made in engines. But since it's so expensive, changes to cars are made in leaps, not tiny steps.

What's the drawback of his method? You guessed it. Cost.

"It's not cost-effective for someone to run out and spend $40,000 to double the fuel economy, but I have no shortage of customers," Goodwin says.

Including California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who's having his Wagoneer converted to biodiesel.

Goodwin, 37, drives a 1987 gas burning Wagoneer, rents his home and will sheepishly tell you he didn't graduate from high school.

Expect to hear a lot more about Goodwin in the future.

Companies are knocking down the door to work on projects with him.

Goodwin's developing a download that can be installed in a car's computer and improve the mileage by five to seven mpg without losing performance. He expects it to cost about $200.

Ask Goodwin what his favorite project is, and he answers, "the next one" but the Linc-Volt project has been special. "We're going to prove you can have your cake and eat it too so to speak," Goodwin proudly boasts.

Reasons to buy a hybrid -- or not

Story Highlights

There are two reasons to buy a hybrid -- save the world, or save on gas costs.
Your reason for wanting a hybrid will determine whether you should buy one.
If gas prices drive your decision, it could be 2 to 4 years before you break even.
The trim package will determine how soon you recoup paying extra for a hybrid.

OK, it's official: Hybrid vehicles are definitely the wave of the future or at least one of them. With gas prices remaining over $3 a gallon and oil prices up around $100 a barrel, the need to save on fuel -- and fuel costs -- is clearly not just a passing trend. And, of course, concerns about air quality and global warming seem to mount every day.

So, it would seem that this is the right time to take the plunge and buy a hybrid. But first there are some questions you need to ask yourself. One key question is this: Why are you buying a hybrid? Is it to save on gas costs -- or is it to do your part when it comes to cutting back on fossil-fuel emissions, which foul the air and contribute to rapid climate change?

(Picture Left: Ford Escape Hybrid)

That question has been a valid one the last few years, because hybrid vehicles can be more expensive than their non-hybrid counterparts, if you're comparing apples to apples. (That is, if you're comparing two cars of the same size, same equipment levels, etc.)

One school of thought that was advanced a year or two ago is that you pay such a high up-front "premium" for a hybrid that it could take many years before you "break even" on the amount you would save in fuel costs. In that scenario, your incentive for buying a hybrid vehicle would have to be largely driven by a concern for the environment. Which, of course, is not a bad thing. If we're going to clean up the air and reverse the effects of rapid climate change, perhaps that's just the premium we'll all have to pay as we do our part.

But more recently, with gas prices rising even further and hybrid car prices getting closer to non-hybrid counterparts, it is likely that you will recoup that up-front premium in just a few short years.

So we decided to find a couple of experts on the topic, and pose this question: "Why should people buy a hybrid -- for the cost savings, or just for the environmental benefits?"

One such expert is Bill Reinert, the manager of alternative-fuel vehicle development for Toyota, which produces the most popular hybrid vehicle on the road today -- the Toyota Prius.

"First, let's take a look at the fact that the courts have ruled that C02 is a harmful pollutant, and that Congress has also pushed the auto industry to investigate alternatives to fossil fuels, and is considering regulations as we speak," says Reinert. "So it's clear the government is addressing this problem -- how to reduce C02 emissions -- in a fairly aggressive manner. And hybrid vehicles are one of the most effective ways to do that right now. So it's unavoidable that this is going to be a major direction the industry will go in, even if it didn't want to."

Reinert points out that that there are also emission reductions to be achieved in the "total fuel cycle."

"You also have to consider the emissions that are produced when you extract the oil from the well, and transport it, and convert it to gasoline, and get it into the pump," he says. "So when you drive a hybrid, you're also helping to reduce all of those 'upstream' emissions."

Another factor to consider is the urbanization of the world's population.

"At this point in history, half the world's population lives in urban environments," says Reinert. "And although urban areas cover only 4 percent of the world's land mass, they use 90 percent of our resources. So, how a vehicle performs in urban environments is crucial when it comes to the impact on the environment. That's where a hybrid really offers some key benefits.

"In urban settings, you can just shut off the engine and run it in purely the electric mode for six or eight miles -- and that range is going to get better with every generation of hybrids. And this ability is going to go a long way toward reducing or eliminating emissions signatures of automobiles -- which also happens to be a key issue in the development of the lungs of young children in these urban areas."

Which brings us to the cost issue. Trying to calculate how long it will take you to recoup your up-front premium when buying the Prius is problematic, because there is nothing to compare it to. The Prius only comes as a hybrid, so you can't compare it to, say, "a V6 gas-only version" of the Prius. The Prius's MSRP is $20,950 - $23,220, depending on level of equipment, and has a fuel economy rating of 48/45/46 (city/hwy/combined).

However, it is possible to compare a Toyota Camry Hybrid to a "regular Camry."

The Camry Hybrid is powered by a 4-cylinder engine, but for comparison purposes, Toyota spokesman John McCandless claims that, "if you take into account the equipment level of the Camry Hybrid -- and that it has the performance of a V-6 -- the best apples-to-apples comparison is to compare the hybrid to a V-6 Camry LE. Those base prices are less than $2,000 apart -- $23,640 for the Camry V6 LE, vs. $25,000 for the Hybrid."

Toyota reports that the Camry Hybrid's fuel economy rating is 33 mpg city/34 mpg highway. Meanwhile, the Camry V6 gets 21/31 mpg, city/hwy.

For purposes of comparison, McCandless used a combined fuel economy rating, splitting the difference between highway and city mileage.

"So if you drive 15,000 miles a year, and you buy the Hybrid version, you'll be using about 454 gallons a year," says McCandless. "Meanwhile, if you get the V6 LE, you'll be burning 635 gallons a year. At $3.20 a gallon, that's a fuel-cost saving of about $547 a year. So it should take you three or four years to recoup the up-front premium you paid to buy the Hybrid. Plus, you get the satisfaction that you are easing the emission imprint on the planet."

Another popular hybrid on the road is the Honda Civic Hybrid, which can be purchased for even less than the Camry Hybrid. The MSRP of the regular Civic with the 4-cylinder gas engine ranges from $14,810 - $29,500, while the Civic Hybrid's MSRP is a flat $22,600. So, in the case of the Civic, the calculations will depend on what trim level and features you order if you go with the regular Civic 4-cylinder. The Civic Hybrid's fuel economy rating is 45 mpg hwy/40 mpg city compared to 34/26 for the regular Civic.

"The Civic EX [AT] has an MSRP of $19,510 and gets 29 mpg in the EPA combined cycle," says Martin. "The Civic Hybrid has an MSRP of $22,600 and gets 42 mpg in the combined cycle. That's an MSRP price difference of $3,090, and a mileage difference of 13 mpg.

"At an of assumed gas price of $3.20/gallon for 15,000 miles/year, it would ordinarily take a little over 6 years to pay back that difference," he continued. "However, the Civic Hybrid still qualifies for a $1,050 federal tax credit until June. That credit can bring the price difference between the two trim levels to only $2,040. Taking that into account, using the same cost per gallon and 15,000 miles/year, it would only take 3.98 years to pay back the difference."

Another popular hybrid is the Ford Escape Hybrid. The Escape Hybrid's MSRP ranges from $26,330 - $28,080, and its fuel-economy rating is 30 mpg hwy / 34 mpg city, while the regular Escape has an MSRP range of $18,770 - $25,520, and a fuel economy rating of 28/22. At press time, Ford had not yet provided its own "payback-time" calculations.

One expert who extols the virtues of hybrid vehicles -- both for their environmental benefits and cost savings -- is Bradley Berman, the editor of Hybridcars.com who also writes about hybrid vehicles for publications like the New York Times and Business Week.

"Not all hybrids are created equal, when it comes to price, because it depends on what equipment level you're looking at," says Berman. "But if you buy the most fuel-efficient ones, you'll definitely get a return on your premium within a few years."

As for the Prius, Berman points out that "people who are considering a Prius are probably not entry-level buyers who are also looking at a Toyota Yaris or some other sub-compact. They're going to the next tier. They're comparing the Prius to other cars in that price range -- cars that, if they bought them, they'd be spending that extra money on other features and options."

Berman also notes that "the data I've seen, from J.D. Power, and Polk Automotive, show that the customer satisfaction rate among buyers of hybrid vehicles is 80 to 90 percent. And the market penetration of the hybrid vehicles is increasing. Initially, it was just early-adopter types, but now we're seeing more and more people buying them who probably wouldn't have considered them two or three years ago."

Berman also cites the "tech appeal" of the hybrid vehicles. "Hybrids definitely appeal to people who are into 'fun technology'," he says. "If you were one of the folks who went out and got an iPod or iPhone as soon as they came out, and if you use a TiVO instead of a VCR, then you'll probably like the fact that today's hybrids are the most advanced vehicles out there today in terms of electronics. So they have sort of a 21st-Century-Geek appeal," he adds with a laugh.

If you're ready to make the leap into the hybrid-car world and are wondering which one to buy, there are a few factors to consider, says Berman. "One important decision is the size of the vehicle." If you really, really need an SUV-sized vehicle, there are a number of hybrid SUVs that are on the market now or coming onto the market soon," notes Berman. "But even the most fuel-efficient hybrid SUVs aren't as fuel efficient as most of the conventional gasoline-powered sedans, just because of their size, and the size of the engines."

Styling is another factor. "Some people think the Prius is the ugliest thing ever, but others love it. And environmentally-minded folks love the way it looks because the body style calls attention to the fact that it's a 'green' car. But if you're into more conventional styling, the Civic or Camry or Escape might be the way to go."

One key point that Berman likes to make is that today's hybrids "are still essentially gasoline vehicles. The importance of today's hybrids is that they're forming a bridge to future technology -- to what we will see 20 years from now. And it's a symbolic shift away from the gas-burning internal combustion engine. And that's a key, because the facts about climate change and the global oil markets are incontrovertible.

"We definitely need to get off of fossil fuels, and hybrid vehicles of both today and the future are an excellent way to do that."

Taken from AOL, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Expert: Head-turning hybrid has good performance


Some car companies just can't leave well enough alone. After all, if you have the best-selling car eight of the past nine years, have projections to sell 420,000 more next year and your new model has won just about every automotive award available, except the Indy 500 Milk Bottle, why would you place the engineering equivalent of a graffiti mustache on it?

Toyota has three reasons for creating a new hybrid version of their wildly popular Camry. First, Toyota is out to retain and expand its reputation for leadership in hybrid technology that started with the "It Ain't Easy being Green" Prius.

Second, the Camry Hybrid sedan joins the new Highlander Hybrid as another model in a long-range plan to develop hybrids to fit all marketing segments.

The third is financial: through innovation, aggressive product development and offering the car shopper a wide choice, Toyota hopes to make more sales.

Completely redesigned to be more declarative and aggressive, the Camry Hybrid, which has an MSRP of $25,200, is described by Toyota as "athletic and elegant," and that it is. Today, despite the fact that thousands of hybrid Camrys are mingling with traffic on our streets and roads, the perception has not become seen-one-seen-em-all.

Although not quite a Maserati Quattroporte, the Toyota Camry can do its fair share of head turning. Its newly-designed semi-sinister (or smiling, depending on your outlook) grille features projector-headlights highlights with a low, ready-to-spring crouch. From there, a sleek, shark-swoop fender line streaks back along gracefully-curved flanks to a naturally-melding high trunk profile which seems to fit the overall design better than the BMW protruding butts. Our test car was a high-luxe metallic white with the sheen of a giant pearl.

Inside the vault-clunking doors, there is 101.4 cubic feet of passenger volume, seemingly room enough for the starting backfield of the Dallas Cowboys. The feeling of spaciousness is enhanced because the huge windshield and cleverly curved dashboard have been pushed considerably forward. The Camry rear legroom is now over 38 inches. Those rear seats now recline eight degrees and have personal reading lamps on the moonroof-equipped models. Add two jet engines and this vehicle could replace six major airlines.

The entire cockpit has a Lexus-Mercedes-Cadillac feel, enhanced by easy to understand and operate buttons and switches that make everything instantly manageable. Even the optional voice-operated navigation system will make a non-direction-asking husband fall in love. Instruments are large, readable and viewable in bright sunlight. Instead of the usual tachometer, there is a constant readout mpg gauge marked from 0 mpg to 60 and then into a range beyond the numbers when the Camry drives without engine power.

The Camry Hybrid we tested didn't miss a stop on the production line, came as well-equipped as any of its top-shelf Lexus relatives. In addition to the companionable voiced navigation system were seating surfaces covered in leather, a multi-position sun/moon roof, 12v plugs, cup holders, multiple storage bins, a display showing outside temperature, estimated range, average speed, average fuel use and trip odometer, a 440-watt JBL audio system, Bluetooth technology for hands-free cell phone calls, and a keyless push button start system for the engine which takes some getting used to.

In short, the Hybrid Camry has all the operational gee-whizzes and touchy-feely gleams and textures one usually associates with much more expensive cars.

But, as they say, beauty is only skin-deep, so after sating ourselves with surface appeals, we went hunting for our top-of-the-list musts: safety engineering, equipment and operation.

Here, the Camry Hybrid takes care of its own and, obviously, yours too.

Like the other Camrys, the Hybrid features dual-stage driver and passenger SRS airbags, seat-mounted side airbags and side curtain airbags, even a driver's knee airbag. Toyota uses their exclusive whiplash Injury Lessening Technology on the front seats. There is also a standard (ABS) anti-lock braking system, Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist which applies enough pressure to engage the ABS if the driver has not mashed the brake pedal hard enough in emergencies.

The Hybrid is also equipped with the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management System that helps control vehicle traction and stability through throttle control, brake application on individual wheels and even minor steering correction, if needed. Shortly, it would seem, we will all be safer if the vehicles start driving themselves and we can all relax in on our reclined back seats.

But as fetching as the Hybrid looks and as safe as it keeps its occupants, how does it scoot down the road? We set out to see and the going was, as they say, good. On a 78 degree day, on three runs, we got 0-60 mph two-way average times of 8.2, 7.9, and 8.0 seconds. Those 0-60 times compare very favorably to several models in its class.

The dual driving forces behind this surprisingly good performance are the two parts of the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive System which carries power between gas and electricity and/or both as needed

The first half of the combined 187 horsepower (same output as the 2006 Camry V-6 3.0 liter) unit is a 147 horsepower, 2.4 litre four cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine (a more efficient engine design) mated to a CVT or continuously variable transmission. The second half is a small, high torque 40-hp electric motor with a small inverter, compact battery and a transaxle, a component that combines the transmission, differential and the drive into one integrated assembly, handling power from both engines.

Because there are times when the gas engine shuts down completely to conserve fuel, Toyota engineers have designed the air conditioning and power steering systems to be driven electrically. There is also an ECO button which can control how much energy is being used by the climate control system.

Also helping the Camry Hybrid accomplish its mpg levels are racing-inspired design elements like wheel spats and underbelly pans which help yield outstandingly low draft coefficients. The slipperier a vehicle is in sliding through the air, the better draft coefficients it has. As examples, the older boxy Volvo 960 had a Cd of .36 while the newer, sleeker model S80 went down to 0.28. The Camry Hybrid has 0.27 Cd.

The EPA estimates 40mpg city/38mpg highway for this new Hybrid. Our experience, including the mini 0-60 mph drag meet, heavy-footed runs along the freeways, shopping mall stop-and-go with lots of air conditioning and general around town cruising, was a bit less with an overall average of 34 mpg. This was generous enough, seemed to us, for a full out, good performing, full sized luxury-type sedan.

If you are still undecided about a Hybrid car and want to wait and see where the industry is headed; whether that is more look-at-me models or me-too versions, Toyota is evidently planning to cover both bases. Word is that the factory fanciers of the Prius look will soon add additional models to the existing four door sedan, including an SUV. Over at the business-as-usual design shop, plans seem to be to just add hybrid technology to existing models and demand and future product planning dictate.

Either way you look at it, Toyota will be offering consumers with more choices and we think the Camry Hybrid is a great one.



By Terry Galanoy taken from CNN/AOL Auto